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Alotta Candor

Ask Alotta

Alotta Candor answers your job questions!

Dear Alotta,

I am on probation at work. Why?! Because I did something that company policy says I am allowed do. Let me explain: My company allows 15 days of paid time off, or PTO, as they call it. This means that when I'm sick, any time off comes out of the 15 days. When I take a vacation day, it comes out of those days as well. If you use up your days, any time you take off after that is unpaid. I have worked for my company for 2 years. The first year I worked here, I went on a 2 week vacation to Ecuador. I have family there and only get to see them once a year. Then I got sick and then I needed to take some time off around Christmas. I took the extra time as unpaid, as company policy allows. This year, I took my annual vacation to see my family and then I got sick again. I ran out of days in August and have since taken 3 unpaid days off as my eldest son was going away for college and I helped move him there last month. Last week, my boss called me into his office and told me that he was placing me on probation and that I cannot take any more unpaid days off. I explained that I thought it was company policy that I could take unpaid days off and now he tells me that is at the manager's discretion and that he doesn't approve of "that sort of practice". Alotta, I am sorry but I need to take a few more days off around the holidays! I don't think this is fair at all. I spoke to a woman from HR and she said, even though it is the employee handbook, the policy is at manager's discretion. How can that be? Do I have a case to make them grant me the days off?

- Why why why

Dear Why,

Why? Because you abused the policy, that's why. The unpaid time-off policy at companies was intended as a means to help out people with extenuating circumstances who have exhausted their vacation day supply. Your reasons for taking time off were not what Alotta would call "extenuating".

The first time you used unpaid time off, they gave you the benefit of the doubt and let it slide. The second time you did it, they saw a habit forming and wanted to nip it in the bud. When you're new at a job, you are building a reputation. Unfortunately for you, the one you've built for yourself is that of a person who bends the rules. Now, it's time to improve your reputation and prove yourself to be someone who takes accountability for his actions and corrects his mistakes. This means that you'll be on your best behavior from here on out and you will not take any more time off for the rest of the year. And if you're sick with anything other than the Bird Flu (don't get any ideas!), you better come to work. Next year, if you really need extra days off to travel to see your family, see if you can negotiate with your boss to take the days out of your salary ahead of time. He may be willing to grant you the time off if he sees you are planning ahead and willing to make a financial sacrifice.

You do not have a case to "make" them grant you the days off. The only argument you have against the probation is that, in fairness to you, you should have been issued a warning before they put you on probation.

- Alotta, sternly

Dear Alotta

There is a man at work who I will call "Peter". Peter schedules meetings on top of meetings. I don't really know what Peter's job is. He is technically a Project Manager, but all he seems to do is manage meetings. Behind his back, we call him the LMNOP, "Little Meeting Nazi of P" ("P" is the first letter of my company's name). We never get anything done during these meetings; all we do is go over pointless meeting minutes from other meetings and discuss upcoming projects (that, by the way, never materialize). At the end of the meetings he says he's going to send out an invitation for the next one when he gets back to his desk. I've tried asking politely whether or not another meeting is necessary and he just looks at me like I'm crazy and says, "Of course it is!" and shuffles off. Peter has 3 bosses, so I don’t think I should go to all 3 of his bosses, plus I have never met any of them. OK, Alotta, got any ideas?

- All meeting-ed out.

Dear All,

Ideas? Alotta? Silly, Reader...

Does your e-mail calendaring program have a "decline" button? If it does—for crying out loud, use it! Even if he schedules the meetings in person, you still have the use of your mouth to say "Sorry, I can't". Alotta is adamant in her "idea" that one should not allow himself to be held hostage by a little meeting Nazi when he has a job to do. In this case, as in 99% of adult life, no one is going to look out for you, but you. So start looking out.

- Alotta, whip-cracking-ly

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